Category Archives: Blog Posts

An Instant Read Thermometer…It Beats Touching Your Face!

ThermoWorks Thermapen-Mk4

One Saturday night when I was in my twenties, I was sitting in a diner with my buddy, John.  We were not talking about women, sports,

One Saturday night when I was in my twenties, I was sitting in a diner with my buddy, John.  We were not talking about women, sports, or politics.  No.  As hip and happening guys do, we were talking about the best ways to tell how a steak is cooked to the proper temperature.  Based on this topic of conversation, I know you are saying to yourself, “It’s amazing that these guys would be alone on a Saturday night!”

John, who worked at a bunch of restaurants and was going to culinary school at Johnson & Wales, introduced me to the technique that he used.  Instead of thermometers, he directed me to what he claimed was a simple way that involved touching one’s face, matching the feeling of the meat and a specific area facial feature.

Touch the meat and it feels like your forehead, then the meat is Well-Done.  For Medium, touch your nose.  Medium Rare is judged by feeling the area right above the point of your chin.  If your steak feels like the meaty part of your cheek, you’re looking at Rare.

I had a problem with this method for a few reasons.  First, it was so subjective.  I’ve got a large nose bestowed upon me by my forbears that needed big noses to suck in as much oxygen as possible while living high in the mountains of southern Italy.  There is no way that John’s very average Irish/ Scottish/ German nose and mine when touched would both produce an equally Medium Rare steak.

Second, this routine requires that you touch the meat, then touch your face to judge if it done correctly.  In all likelihood, you’ll have to repeat the meat/face touching process.  Even if the person cooking at the grill is not a pimply-faced teenager, this is just gross and unhygienic.  Plus on a particularly busy night of cooking, you’d be walking around with meat juice smeared all over your mug.

Instead of reading a steak as Helen Keller would read Annie Sullivan’s face, I am a fan of using a proper thermometer.  At first, I used a round dial thermometer.  It was simple to use but it took a long time to register a temperature and its small face difficult for me to read.

My second thermometer was a Williams Sonoma brand whose model number is lost to history.  It came in two parts- the monitor serves as a timer and digitally displayed the temperature.  Its back is magnetic so it conveniently sticks to the stove and refrigerator.  The probe can be connected to the monitor after the business end is inserted in whatever meat you happened to be cooking.

I have really liked using this over the years. The only major challenge here is that there is a bit of awkwardness in organizing the thermometer in the food in such a way that it gives you a good reading while still providing the probe with enough slack to connect to the thermometer base outside of your oven.  Also, when the food is done you have to remember that the probe has spent a good amount of time in a hot oven.  Taking it out with bare hands is not advised and, yes, I have done it on one more than one occasion.  It’s usually around the time that I am in the throes of preparing a holiday meal.  I’ve had that since about 2002, and I still use the timer.

Just a few weeks ago, I received the ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4 as a birthday gift.  It’s something that I coveted for a while but never would indulge to get for myself.  Simply put, this thermometer is a dream.  While it does not provide the constant reading of the old Williams Sonoma, its easy-to-read, back lit, digital display allows you to quickly ascertain the temperature of what you’re cooking without having to futz about.  I have a feeling the Mk4 and I are going to be friends for a long time.


The Guys and Food newsletter gives you delicious recipes, helpful kitchen hacks, and other things that any food guy will find useful. Some of the things in the newsletter will be exclusive, which means it won’t make it on the podcast or blog. Sign up for the newsletter, you’ll be glad that you did! (Don’t worry, your contact information will never be sold or made available to any other person or organization.)

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Please feel free to reach out with your questions or comments.  You can do that by clicking on the Contact button, email me at gabe@ guysandfood.com, or call the listener line at 716-427-GUYS (4897).

Food Writing and Food Podcasting

If you don’t listen to the podcast, it does not exclude you from the Guys and Food family. If reading is more your thing, I am starting to add regular blog posts into the mix because when I am not talking about food, chances are that I am writing about it.

That writing extends beyond this platform.  I’ve been lucky to be able to write for a couple of magazines, most recently in Edible Western New York.  In the latest edition, I write about fading food traditions and family.  A few months ago, I started writing for Buffalo Spree.  Here is the first article that I wrote for Spree, its about sauce.

Both are very good magazines aside from the fact that they publish my work.  If you see them at your local newsstand, pick up a copy.  If you live outside of Western New York, click on the links in this article and read the digital versions.

The Guys and Food Podcast

You may not have the time or know how to listen to the Guys and Food Podcast.  Certainly, it’s my hope that this will change.  If you already listen to the podcast–Thank You!  It’s a labor of love and I appreciate that you listen.  However, if you’re not familiar with what a podcast is and you want to know more, please contact me directly and I will personally walk you through it.  Call me and, if I don’t answer, I will call you back– 716-427-GUYS (4897).

If you’re podcast savvy, you can easily subscribe to the Guys and Food podcast in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, GooglePlay, and Tunein Radio.  On social media you can find us on Facebook and Twitter!

However you engage with Guys and Food, whether its on the blog, podcast, or on social media, please sign up for the Guys and Food newsletter!  It gives you delicious recipes, helpful kitchen hacks, and other things that any food guy will find useful.  Some of the things in the newsletter will be exclusive, which means it won’t make it on the podcast or blog.  Sign up for the newsletter, you’ll be glad that you did! (Don’t worry, your contact information will never be sold or made available to any other person or organization.)

 

 

Raclette: The New Fondue

The set-up for Raclette.

If you listened to the Episode 019 of the Guys and Food podcast,  you heard me tell the tale of eating Raclette.

Here is a little more in-depth info for you.  First, we must differentiate between Raclette the cheese and Raclette the experience.

As a product, Raclette is merely a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese made in Switzerland.  It’s origins go back to medieval times in an area called Savoy which is now part of France.  Indeed, its name comes from the French verb,  “racler” which means “to scrape off” and once I tell you more about it, you know how scraping is involved. When heat is applied, Raclette transforms to gooey, melty goodness. One of the better characteristics of many but not all cheeses.  When melted, there’s nutty smell and taste to the cheese.

If you grew up in the 1970s or if you’ve been to The Melting Pot, you get the idea of the Raclette experience; it is fondue-like in this way. The way you eat Raclette is to melt the cheese (it can be Raclette or Munster or Swiss or any type of good melting cheese) and scrape it onto various accompanying foods.  Meats such as ham or turkey, and vegetables such as potatoes and cornichons usually accompany it.  It can also come with crepes or baguette.

In my opinion, the best part is the fun is cooking on the electric table top grill called a coupelle.  The one we used was about the size of a   9 x 13 baking dish.  On top of the coupelle is a griddle. There you can heat up your meat or your crepes.  In the middle of  this device is a mini broiler like a salamander broiler that you’d see in a restaurant, but much smaller.  You take the cheese and you stick in holders that look like shovels that kids use in a sand box.  After the cheese melts, you take a scraping tool to remove it off the shovel-like device and onto your food or plate.

Methinks to shovel the molten cheese directly into your mouth, aside from the physical danger, would be poor form given the communal nature of the meal.  As I said, the vibe is like doing fondue or Korean BBQ.  It is more social , interactive, and fun than simply being serve a plate of food at a restaurant.  It’s a nice change of pace!


The Guys and Food newsletter gives you delicious recipes, helpful kitchen hacks, and other things that any food guy will find useful. Some of the things in the newsletter will be exclusive, which means it won’t make it on the podcast or blog. Sign up for the newsletter, you’ll be glad that you did! (Don’t worry, your contact information will never be sold or made available to any other person or organization.)

Remember to subscribe to the Guys and Food podcast in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, GooglePlay, and Tunein Radio.  In social media you can find us on Facebook and Twitter!

Please feel free to reach out with your questions or comments.  You can do that by clicking on the Contact button, email me at gabe@ guysandfood.com, or call the listener line at 716-427-GUYS (4897).

Happy Veterans Day!

To all have served, Happy Veterans Day.

413Here is a photo of me when I was a lean, mean fighting machine.  I served seven years proudly in the military.

I have always loved food.  However, I really loved food when I was in the service because it reminded me of home.

The Guys and Food podcast is coming soon.  However, perhaps you didn’t know that your’s truly was featured in a podcast related to food and the military. It’s true!  Listen to this episode of one of my favorite podcasts called The Sporkful.

–Gabe

 

 

Let’s Settle our Political Differences at the Table

“On this Election Day, I offer your attention to something that people of all political persuasions could probably agree on—the healing power of food.”


 

Certainly, this has been the most contentious election in memory.  Clinton v. Trump will be one for the record books for sure.  Never have I seen such discord in a presidential election; interestingly, I seem to say that every four years.

That doesn’t mean this level of rancor never existed.  Remember, the entire South left the Union after Lincoln was elected.  Our history is full of examples of times when our civil discourse was much less civil during elections. So we should put things in perspective.

On this Election Day, I offer your attention to something that people of all political persuasions could probably agree on—the healing power of food.  First, regardless if it is “right” or not, eating comfort food physiologically makes you feel better.  The chemical reactions produce endorphins (or something like that) and Boom! You feel better.  Food makes you feel better emotionally too.  Bread and butter or grandma’s lasagna take you back to another time and can be the equivalent of a nurturing hug when you really need it.  If you decide you will celebrate (or drown your sorrows) in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia,  a box of Entenmanns’s Chocolate Chip Iced Cake, or a rib eye steak the size of your head, I am not going to judge.  I firmly and unabashedly approve of the message that there is a palliative effect to eating.  Go for it.

After the hangover of celebration (or mourning), we have to decide as a country what to do next.  We simply can’t all move to Canada, nor can we take up arms in insurrection.  That’s not what we do.  Everyone who voted loves their country and wants to us to be better tomorrow than we are today.  We simply have different views on how to get there.  In the coming days, weeks, months, and years, we have to figure out how we are going to do that.  Every other time, we have managed, somehow, to come together.  We have to do that again.  There is no alternative.

A Modest Proposal

In a recent interview for the soon-to-be-released Guys and Food podcast, I spoke with Ken Haedrich.  He is a cookbook author and an authority on pie.  He described pie as more than a combination of ingredients encased in a crust.  It’s a food that brings people together.

“You set a pie out on the table with a diverse crowd group of people and all of the other differences sort of melt away.  It doesn’t matter what your political persuasion is or your religion, or anything like that.  All of sudden it’s ‘pie’ and everybody loves one another.”

So if you and your brother-in-law disagreed on who the next president should be or you were unfriended on Facebook by someone who thought your candidate was not the best fit, take a breath and invite them over for some pie.  The mere act of sharing that dessert can start healing your relationships and by extension, our country.

If pie is not your thing (I will judge you on this character flaw) and you want to bake something that is delicious and historically appropriate, I offer this recipe for Election Cake.Election Cake

Election Cake has a long history in our country, having been served traditionally on, you guessed it, Election Day and other large gatherings.  It is very similar to panettone in that it’s a sweet yeast bread stuffed with dried fruit.  In this recipe, I used equal parts golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and citron.  It’s also fortified with brandy and Madeira wine with more than a huge whiff of nutmeg.  It is very tasty when toasted with a slather of unsalted butter.  Give it a whirl!  The recipe I used was from Greg Patent’s Baking in America.  Here is a feature that was heard on NPR about that cookbook that includes the recipe for Election Cake.  Note that, with three different risings of about two hours each(not including baking time) this takes a good part of the day to bake.

Note:  While you’re sharing it with someone who didn’t vote for your candidate, try not to discuss political emails or the size of a particular candidate’s hands.

Wednesday Baking with Joe

PizzaOver the summer break, in an effort to enjoy a bonding experience and to keep my son off of the damn Xbox, we established a routine of baking on Wednesdays.  It started initially as bread baking but quickly expanded to crackers, donuts, and other baked goods.

Why Baking?

Why not baking?  First, Joe loves bread and butter as many kids (and adults) do.  Getting him to cook things that he likes is easier than say having him scale and gut a whole fish  There was no objection from me by adding dessert to the repertoire either. Triglycerides aside, I like desserts and so does my son.  So if we are going to be in the kitchen, let it be making things we mutually enjoy.

Baking was also good choice because the assembly of ingredients is easier.  Spooning cups of flour and teaspoons of cinnamon requires less interaction with knives than cooking.  So too, there was less open flame involved, though we would eventually get there when we took a foray into donut land.

100 Great BreadsKing Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

How it worked

Joe drove the bus on the things that we baked.  He perused my many cookbooks and selected which recipe he found interesting.  Primarily, we baked from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.  My son’s job was to assemble the ingredients and to portion them.  Then, we would go over the recipes, resolve any questions, and start a bakin’.

The Challenges

My son is ten years old and has the attention span commensurate with that age so another thing to watch out for was to putting the ingredients in the correct bowl at the correct time.  Baking is more of a science, and I have learned the hard way that this matters. Also, little things such as putting the salt on top of the yeast may kill the yeast’s desire to make the bubbles necessary.

Aside from the concerns of open flames and sharp knives associated with the kitchen, there were other safety issues.  One of my family’s nicknames for me is Captain Caution, for good reason.  It is the standard operating procedure for me to think of all the things that could go wrong and think of the contingencies should those things occur.  I’m a stocky, bald, Jason Bourne without the sex appeal of Matt Damon.  I admit to this and try to make sure that Joe’s exuberances were balanced with thoughtful concern for safety.  For example, when handling hot pans, we use oven mitts or dry dishtowels.  I gently point out that perhaps it would be wiser to unplug the mixer before licking the beater.

A benefit of this process is that I learned to trust my boy more as the weeks passed.  He learned a healthy respect for the things that might happen, and I found myself not jumping in (as much) to head off any potential danger.  I overcame my fear and need to control things, and he gained more confidence in the kitchen.  In fact, on a non-baking project day, Joe asked if he could bake chocolate chip cookies entirely by himself.  I allowed this with the exception of turning on the oven.

Other Benefits

Anytime I get to interact with my son that doesn’t involve me telling him to brush his teeth or to pick up after himself is generally a good thing.  We both love to learn things and it was extra fun to share the discovery with him as opposed to telling him about it.  Also, my heart warmed as he delivered a sample for his mom to taste. He beamed at her satisfaction.  You can’t manufacture that enthusiasm.

The project was both fun AND educational.  We learned about history as we discussed the origins of some older bread recipe names and why some ingredients might have been used instead of others.  We learned the science of yeast and why some things  needed kneading while others did not; we enjoyed the word play of “needing kneading” too! We engaged actively in math.  For example, in Hollywood’s book we  had to mathematically adjust the amount of dried yeast because his recipes called for fresh yeast.

Now with school well underway with homework, music lessons, and other extracurricular activities, we’ve talked about switching things from Wednesdays to Saturdays.  That hasn’t happened yet.  I hope it does because I had a lot of fun.

I think Joe did too.

Here is the list of the things we baked during the summer with the appropriate Facebook posts that accompanied them:

Week 1

White Bread

White Bread

Week 2

They call it Batch Bread.  A very old British recipe from Georgian times. It has sugar and butter in it!

607

Week 3

They call it Naan.  It’s cooked on cast iron because there is no traditional brick oven as used in India.  The dough was sticky which accounts for its less than symmetrical shape. I will say we were going for the rustic look.

Naan

Week 4.

So far we’ve done breads from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads including white bread, naan, and something called Batch Bread.

This week my boy decided that he wanted pizza AND garlic bread made from scratch as part of the project.

The ciabatta is from Hollywood’s book and was used for the garlic bread.

The pizza dough is from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook.

CiabattaPizza

Week 5

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.  This type of bread is not a yeast bread recipe that Joseph and I have been making heretofore.  This is bejeweled with walnuts and chocolate chips and makes a nice addition to breakfast.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Week 6

As is his wont, Joseph chose to shake things up and bake cheese crackers this week instead of bread.  I think next week, he indicated he wants to go back to bread.

Cheese Crackers

Week 7

Last week, we did cheddar crackers, but it is back to bread this week! Joe and I made an English bread called farl. It is a butter enriched bread also known as “oven bottom,” because it was traditionally baked at the bottom of the oven. Imagine that?!  It is from Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads.

FarlWeek 8

While we’ve been doing mostly breads, Joe wanted to make chocolate donuts with chocolate glaze from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.

DonutsWeek 9

Today, Joe and I made bagels! Especially timely since our bagel shop down the block closed about a week and a half ago.

We dig into them for breakfast tomorrow but I am already thinking on next time taking a stab at sesame seed bagels and (dare I mention) bialys!

BagelsWeek 10

Due to a shift in priorities, baking bread has broadened to baking in general.  Today, Joe and I made Chocolate Éclairs! I would have made more pastry cream but otherwise I think it was a success for a first try!Eclairs

Week 11

img_3266

Today, Joe and I made Orange Cranberry Scones. Delightfully light and not too sweet, these will be great for breakfast tomorrow.

New Stove, New Possibilities

Samsung NX58F5700WS
Samsung NX58F5700WS

We greeted the arrival of our Samsung NX58F5700WS freestanding gas range and convection oven with the fanfare appropriate of a visiting international dignitary.  That didn’t happen when other appliances made their way into the house–not the refrigerator and certainly not new washing machine.  They didn’t get a fraction of the attention and for good reason.  For food people, a stove not only serves the utilitarian function of adding heat or flame to things that we will eat, it serves as a portal to a magical land of what could be.

In the reflection of the stainless steel, I flash-forwarded to Thanksgiving meals lovingly prepared in the not-too-distant future:  a giant roasted turkey worthy of a Rockwell painting, mountains of two kinds of stuffing, and mashed potatoes that would make my wife and son embrace each other as they cried with delight.  Soon after, many assorted Italian Christmas cookies would come out in piles to celebrate the birth of Jesus by way of gluttony.  A few months later, a garlic-studded leg of lamb, roasted to perfection, would bookend a meal with an Easter Pie.  In between all of those holidays, freshly baked cakes, pies and dessert bars would welcome my boy home from school, and rustic loaves of bread would be a daily occurrence.

Its predecessor, the generations old Magic Chef stove was functional with two and a half of the four burners working.  However, its oven door broke off after daily use since the Nixon administration; we quickly forgot it before the deliverymen left the driveway.  It came with our house when we moved in over a decade before.  It was on its last legs then but we kept it because my wife and I had plans for a glorious kitchen remodel that would happen once we settled in.  It made sense to wait and buy all new appliances all at once. Life and finances got in the way, and the remodel still hasn’t happened.  A while back, the dilapidated refrigerator broke, and we replaced it.  Not with the Sub-zero that was the stuff of my fantasies, but it’s a nice LG, and it gets the job done.  But like Fantine in Les Misérables, I whist fully dream a dream of what life could be like in my fancy new kitchen.

It would be a bright and sunny room with lots of granite counter space and a center island.  A rainbow might even be perpetually present over the pots of fresh basil, rosemary, and chives.  It would be well organized too.  Pots, pans, and Tupperware containers would be neatly arranged and would not cascade out in a cacophony like the contents of Dagwood Bumstead’s closet.  The deep sink would be able to accommodate dishes in addition to the many canning, brining, and fermenting projects that would be done.

It’s more than just an appliance.  With a new stove, comes the promise of new and exciting possibilities.

So too, this is a new blog and I am excited about creating this space for guys who love food.  I am also excited about the Guys and Food podcast that is on the way.  Stay tuned!

“Think of it as a man cave where guys talk about food, instead of sports…”


Did you ever notice that there is no place for regular guys to talk about food?

In all the media, of all of the television shows, of all of the places online– can you think of a place? Sure, there are plenty of men in the media talking about food—and they all seem to be chefs, don’t they? There is absolutely nothing wrong with chefs. But as with any profession, when guys talk about their work there is a different interaction, and a different agenda. Don’t you think?

I wanted to create a place to tell stories that would be interesting to everyday guys who care about, and think about food. I want to find the answers to questions that guys have about food-related issues; this is that place.

This is not the He-Man Women Haters Club. While all are welcome in this place, it is my experience that the phrase, “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” is true. I am not diminishing women nor is it my goal to exclude them or undermine them as a gender. But this is a place for guys to be guys. For men to ask questions and make comments that they ask, in the way that they ask them. Think of it as a man cave where guys talk about food, instead of sports.

Please let me know what you are thinking by contacting Guys and Food or by taking a quick survey!